Speed Reads


Workers uncover hidden chemistry lab designed by Thomas Jefferson

In the middle of a two-year renovation to the University of Virginia's Rotunda building, workers recently found something unexpected — a chemistry lab designed by Thomas Jefferson, the school announced in a news release.

Jefferson, who founded the university, designed the building in the 1820s. The chemical hearth, meant to be used with a nearby classroom, had been sealed in a wall since the 1850s. That's how it survived an 1985 fire that apparently didn't spare much else in the building's interior.

The founding father likely collaborated with the university's first natural history professor, John Emmet, to create the space for conducting experiments.

"This may be the oldest intact example of early chemical education in this country," Brian Hogg, a senior historic preservation planner for the university, said in the release.